A few weeks ago, several allegations of rape, unnatural sex and sexual assault were made by nine women against celebrity preacher Da’i Syed, whose real name is Syed Shah Iqmal Syed Mohammad Shaiful.
The 25-year-old was charged with raping a woman at the Shah Alam Sessions Court on December 10 and faces up to 20 years in prison and whipping if found guilty.
He is also facing two separate charges of committing unnatural sex and molestation at the Petaling Jaya Magistrate’s Court and Sessions Court.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Not all the police reports against him went to court, but the sheer number of women who came forward after the first rape report is pretty concerning, to say the least.
What’s even more concerning is the immediate responses of some people, especially Da’i Syed’s fans, towards the allegations against him.
Some claim the alleged victims were at fault
We'd like to say we were surprised by some people who blamed the possible victims who made police reports against Da'i Syed for putting themselves in situations where they can get raped or sexually assaulted - but we're not.
Victim blaming, especially when it comes to sexual harassment, rape and other cases in the same vein are so common in our society, it’s crazy even to contemplate.
Before we get into that, here are some of the responses on social media to the allegations against the man which sickened us and other social media users.
Guess it's true that sometimes women are other women's biggest enemies. At least in this case.
An overwhelming number of people who blamed the people who brought the allegations to light were women.
In fact, there were plenty of women who continue to support him and even say things like "if he's indeed guilty, hope God fogives him".
There's even a #standwithdaisyed
hashtag that was trending on Twitter, which was hjacked by K-Pop fans, but is making a comeback.
Look, we’re not saying he is guilty before the courts decide. But the fact that people are so ready to defend a possible serial rapist and blame the possible victims even if he is not guilty is just disturbing.
What is victim blaming and why does it happen?
The term is pretty self-explanatory. Victim blaming is when a person is blamed for something bad that was done to them whether it's sexual violence, robbery, murder or any other type of crime.
In the context of sexual crimes, questions like "why did she follow a guy home?", "what was she wearing?", "was she drunk?", "why didn't she fight him off", "why didn't she report the crime earlier?" etc. shifts the blame from the perpetrator to the victims.
Barbara Gilin, a professor of social work at Widener University, said that people tend to victim blame as a form of self-defence in the face of bad news.
She told The Atlant
ic that people feel like they have a little more control when it comes to protecting themselves from becoming victims of crime and as such tend to blame others who fall victim.
“In my experience, having worked with a lot of victims and people around them, people blame victims so that they can continue to feel safe themselves.
"I think it helps them feel like bad things will never happen to them. They can continue to feel safe. Surely, there was some reason that the neighbour's child was assaulted, and that will never happen to their
child because that other parent must have been doing something wrong," she told the publication.
The article also spoke about moral values influencing victim-blaming.
Laura Niemi, a postdoctoral associate in psychology at Harvard University, and Liane Young, a professor of psychology at Boston College conducted research on the phenomenon of victim-blaming and found that people tend to have binding values or individualised values.
While everyone holds to a mix of both types of values, one is often more substantial than the other.
According to The Atlantist report, the researchers found that those who have stronger binding value often protect a group of people or team, while those with individualised values tend to look at individuals and what's good for the person.
This also translates to people with stronger binding values being more prone to victim blame.
"Unsurprisingly, participants who exhibited stronger binding values were more likely to assign responsibility for the crime to the victim or suggest actions the victim could have taken to change the outcome," the report shows.
From what we understand, this basically means that those who think they have moral high ground tend to blame victims more than those who look at individuals and circumstances before passing judgement.
Since the report spoke about victim-blaming in general, it didn’t mention one crucial point when it comes to victim-blaming of sexual violence victims: gender inequality.
We live in a society that upholds men’s privilege over women and normalises rape culture.
We’re so used to hearing things like “boys will be boys”, sexual jokes passed about women and our bodies, multitude of advice to women on how we should dress, act, speak, so we don’t get raped and other things that put the responsibility of staying safe more on the women (who are more often the victims in cases of sexual violence but in no way the only ones) than the perpetrators (who are more often male, although not in every case).
Here are just a few articles proving that even in recent years, women are often blamed for sexual violence against them: Malaysian singer Fynn Jamal: Women ignite men’s lust through face filters, posing provocatively; victim-blaming and #MeToo just ‘Western concepts’
This kind of attitude lets those who commit sexual crimes off the hook while victims are made to cower in shame, stopping them from making police reports and getting the help they need.
The lack of understanding on what consent is
It's baffling how many people are still confused about what consent is when it comes to sexual conducts.
Being in a relationship or even being married doesn't mean automatic consent whenever one person wishes to have sex.
article by Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) puts it succinctly: Consent is the presence of a YES, not the absence of a no.
It further explains that consent can be understood as F-R-I-E-S
- Freely-given: A ‘YES’ that is freely given. This means that consent given is voluntary; it is NOT given out of fear, intimidation, coercion, or fraud. You should not feel pressured to engage in any sexual activity.
- Reversible: You can change your mind at any moment, even if you’re in the middle of a sexual act.
- Informed: You should understand what you’re consenting to, and also its implications. If your partner is not being truthful with you, for example, if he agreed to use a condom but did not, then this is not consent.
- Enthusiastic: You should actually want to engage in a sexual activity, and not because you are expected to.
- Specific: If you have consented to a specific sexual act, this does not mean you have also consented to other sexual acts.
The article also talks about conditions under which a person is considered unable to give consent.
This includes when a person is under the age of 16; is intoxicated or unconscious - this includes a person who has consumed alcohol or drugs (prescribed or otherwise) or sleeping; if you are in a position of power and the power imbalance can affect the person’s ability to give consent; a mental disability that affects their ability to communicate consent.
The only person to be blamed when a crime happens is the person who committed the crime.
It doesn’t matter if a person was walking naked in a public place wearing expensive jewellery and looking intoxicated.
If they get robbed, raped or assaulted in any way, the person responsible is the one who commits the crime.
Are we saying don't take precautions? Of course not.
Almost every one of us has our own “safety regiment” - carrying pepper sprays, informing friends and family of where we’re going and with whom, not walking on a dark alley in the middle of the night etc.
But should being safe mean not living our lives?
Should being safe mean not trusting any men even if they portray themselves to be good and religious? Nanti
cakap "not all men" pulak
Should staying safe mean never leaving our homes? 'Coz let's face it - sexual assault happens to all types of people regardless of the way they dress, act, their age, their looks etc.
When will we start teaching our boys and men to be better and respect women instead of letting them get away with disgusting behaviour?
Wouldn't the world be a better place if we created a society where all genders are seen as equal and having equal rights to live life safely?
It's an uphill battle, but for every person who victim blames and contributes to the problem, there are others who counter their arguments.
Perhaps, there is light at the end of the tunnel but how long will it take us to get to the light will depend on those who are willing to speak up, fight and change the status quo.